Northwestern vs. Illinois Odds, Picks: Betting Value on Illini (November 27)

Northwestern vs. Illinois Odds, Picks: Betting Value on Illini (November 27) article feature image

James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Illinois Fighting Illini standout Kerby Joseph.

  • Northwestern and Illinois meet in an in-state Big Ten matchup on Saturday afternoon.
  • The Illini enter as -6.5 favorites, according to updated odds.
  • Darin Gardner breaks down the game below and shares his top bet.

Northwestern vs. Illinois Odds

Saturday, Nov. 27
3:30 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Northwestern Odds
-115o / -105u
Illinois Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Illinois and Northwestern have been eliminated from bowl contention this season, but there's still plenty of motivation on both sides for this rivalry game.

Each year, these programs end the regular season playing for the "Land of Lincoln Trophy," which has gone to the winner of this game since the 2009 season.

Northwestern has dominated over recent years, taking home the trophy six times in a row, but the Illini will try to end that streak Saturday.

Illinois enters this game with a 4-7 record, highlighted by wins over Penn State and Minnesota in conference play, and surpassed its season win total of 3.5. The offense hasn't done much of anything, but the defense has allowed the Illini to be competitive.

Northwestern has really fallen since representing the western division in the Big Ten title game last season, sitting on a 3-8 record with its wins coming against FCS team Indiana State, Ohio and Rutgers. The offense in Evansville is never expected to be electric, but the defense has taken a massive step back this season, which is a main reason for the struggles.

The Wildcats have owned this rivalry recently, but does the momentum swing back in Illinois' favor this weekend?

Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern Offense

In Big Ten play, the Wildcats are averaging just 12.9 points per game and haven't topped 14 points since Oct. 16 against Rutgers. The Wildcats rank 114th in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, and haven't gotten anything out of a passing game ranks 115th in yards per attempt.

Northwestern is splitting time between Ryan Hilinski and Andrew Marty at quarterback. And among 165 quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks, the two rank 156th and 149th, respectively, in PFF passing grade.

Marty has been a little better at pushing the ball downfield, but the problem with him is that he ranks dead last in turnover-worthy play rate, per PFF.

The ground game also hasn't been very good, ranking 85th in terms of Success Rate. The primary ball carrier has been Evan Hull, who has averaged 5.5 yards per carrying, and ranks third on the team in both catches and receiving yards, with 31 receptions for 249 yards on the year.

Northwestern Defense

This Wildcats' defense was dominant in 2020, but just a year later, it ranks 107th in success rate allowed against a schedule that hasn't exactly included a tough slate of opposing offenses.

The front seven has been a big issue in both facets, which ranks 111th in EPA allowed per carry and 114th in pressure rate in the pass rush. Just two games ago, Northwestern allowed Wisconsin's 17-year-old phenom Braelon Allen to go for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 6.9 yards per carry.

Edge defender Adetomiwa Adebawore has been the most productive in the pass-rushing department, but he still ranks outside the top ten among Big Ten edge defenders in sacks and total pressures.

In coverage, the Wildcats rank 99th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and are coming off a performance against Purdue in which they allowed 423 passing yards on 10.8 yards per attempt.

This group hasn't been good but does have a solid player in safety Brandon Joseph, who ranks seventh in PFF coverage grade among Big Ten safeties and is an NFL Draft prospect.

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Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois Offense

This Illinois offense has also been weak but could be able to exploit a vulnerable Northwestern run defense with a ground attack that ranks 66th in Success Rate.

The Illini should dominate in the trenches there, with a run-blocking unit that ranks ninth in PFF grade. Individually, tackle Alex Palczewski has been dominant in the run game, as his 89.9 PFF run-blocking grade ranks tenth in the nation at the position.

At running back, Chase Brown has led the way with 156 carries for 893 yards and ranks fifth among Big Ten running backs in PFF rushing grade. Josh McCray has gotten a healthy amount of the backfield work as well, totaling 500 yards on 103 carries this year.

The Illinois passing game has struggled, ranking 109th in EPA per pass. It's rotated between Brandon Peters and Artur Sitkowski at quarterback, but an injury to Sitkowski has had Peters taking the snaps since the Penn State upset.

Peters has been good at keeping the ball, as he's tied for 21st in turnover-worthy play rate, per PFF, but his passing grade of 64 ranks just 110th.

Illinois Defense

Illinois safety Kerby Joseph has flown around the field this year, as he's brought in five interceptions and allowed just nine total receptions on his way to the highest PFF coverage grade among all safeties in college football. Overall, the Illini rank 52nd in EPA allowed per pass.

The pass rush has arguably been the best facet of the Illinois defense, which ranks 36th in sack rate. The top performer there has been edge rusher Owen Carney Jr., who ranks in the top 10 in sacks and total pressures in the Big Ten.

The Illini run defense has been mediocre this season but has manhandled teams such as Minnesota and Penn State over the past month. It ranks just 92nd in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, but have been significantly better in terms of limiting explosiveness there.

Northwestern vs. Illinois Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Northwestern and Illinois match up statistically:

Northwestern Offense vs. Illinois Defense
Rush Success8592
Line Yards96101
Pass Success11079
Pass Blocking**1338
Big Play10124
Finishing Drives12328
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Illinois Offense vs. Northwestern Defense
Rush Success66110
Line Yards30119
Pass Success12099
Pass Blocking**96105
Big Play11539
Finishing Drives124102
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling7817
Middle 86224
SP+ Special Teams1283
Plays per Minute2878
Rush Rate54.3% (69)59.% (34)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Northwestern vs. Illinois Betting Pick

The line for Illinois was briefly available at -5.5 very early in the week, but those quickly turned into 6s and then 6.5s, which is where it sits as of writing.

Based on my projections, I agreed with that line movement but still think it has more room to move in Illinois' favor, in a game I project at 9.2 in favor of the Illini.

Northwestern just hasn't been able to get it done on either side of the ball, and the Illinois defense is in store for a very good day against an offense that has had an awful time trying to put points on the board.

Pick: Illinois -6.5

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